Ricciardi: “Never imagined BES situation as bad as all that”

 In Banks, News

A former senior director of Banco Espírito Santo, which collapsed in 2014 leaving a trail of debts, said he was “perplexed with the depth and scale of fraud” committed by senior figures at the bank.

José Maria Ricciardi, who was president of Banco Espírito Santo de Investimento (BESI) and who is the cousin of Ricardo Salgado, the disgraced banker facing having to answer to criminal charges in court, is a witness for the Public Ministry in the accusation.
In an interview with the Portuguese daily newspaper Díario de Notícias, he said he believed that “justice was being done” in the BES case, but said he was only sorry he was not taken more seriously back in 2013 when he tried to get Ricardo Salgado removed from the banking group’s leadership.
“I expected this result. I know exactly how I behaved. Regarding what is known, I am endlessly surprised by the size and depth of the alleged frauds and other crimes committed,” he said.
“I am completely shocked at the sale of it. On the one hand, I know that I was right when in 2013 I suggested replacing Ricardo Salgado and changing the corporate governance of the group,” said Ricciardi.
The banker added: “The group was not held accountable to scrutiny, and there were no checks and balances. Capital transfers were not controlled. Ricardo Salgado tried to get public opinion to think that there was a power struggle going on and that I wanted to replace him, which is absolutely false,” said Ricciardi. “I never imagined that things had got so bad,” he added.
However, Ricciardi dismisses any sense of personal responsibility for what was going on at Banco Espírito Santo between 2009 and its eventual collapse in 2014.
“To those who say that I should have known what was going on in the group because I was part of it, well, I’m sorry but they are, and excuse the term, complete idiots.”
“If the Public Ministry, with all the investigative means at its disposal and with the cooperation of the CMVM (the stock market regulator) and the Bank of Portugal, took six years to investigate the case, do you think I’d be able to find out this?”
As to the situation in Novo Banco, Ricciardi said that what happened in BES couldn’t explain the “incongruences” in Novo Banco.
“When Novo Banco was created, in the years that followed the accounts were signed off without any reservations on the impairments (losses).
“With the sale to Lone Star things changed. Furthermore, the economy grew and the real estate sector recovered so that Novo Banco assets gained in value. I think that what’s going on now, in the very least, is rather difficult to explain,” he concluded.